Boxers Know This Already
By ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY
Editor's Note: Iceman John Scully, the former light heavyweight contender, is a well-known and respected boxing trainer in Connecticut.
You are definitely a fighter if you've sat in the dressing room before a fight and considered going to the bathroom and never coming back.
You considered this for several reasons, not the least of which is that you were sitting there and all of a sudden every missed day of roadwork, every day that you did less crunches than you were supposed to, every junk food meal and every bad sparring day in the gym came flooding back to your mind as you sat there waiting for them to call your name.
The wait in the dressing room is one of the amazing experiences that connects all fighters. You can be a four round kid from Germany, a ten round kid from Canada or a world champion from New York City and you can all relate equally to the nightmare of the dressing room wait. It is one of the main things that separates you from every single writer, announcer, trainer, manager, promoter, historian, fan and, especially, every harsh critic of yours who never sat in that lonely room waiting for some guy to come get him to let him know, "It's time."
It is hard to describe it -- almost impossible -- to someone that never did it before. But, guys that have done it know exactly what I am talking about.
A few years ago there was an article put up online based on an interview done with me by Ron DiMichele over at www.eastsideboxing.com that detailed the whole dressing room wait.
The title of the story was "Boxing's Green Mile" because I compared the feeling of the dressing room wait to the move The Green Mile. The Green Mile was the name the characters in that movie gave to the walk that the inmates in the film had to take when they were heading to the electric chair. Well, the article came out and it wasn't too long before I started getting emails from boxers from all over and the common theme of their notes to me was, "I didn't know you felt like that before a fight, too! I thought I was the only one."
Even former world champion Jesse James Lejia -- whom I didn't even know at the time -- called me on the phone to tell me personally that not only did my article hit the nail right on the head but that he was going to make copies of the piece and bring it to his gym to show all the guys that he has heard say, "Give me a million dollars and I would fight Mike Tyson."
That is because every boxer has heard some guy say that before and each time I myself hear it -- and I am very serious when I say this to them -- I tell these guys, "Forget about the fight, man, you wouldn't even make it out of the dressing room!"
The feelings of intimidation, anxiety, fear, worry, uncertainty and apprehension are unique. If there is one thing that separates people that watch boxing from people that actually box, it might be those two hours of indescribable thoughts and feelings that come to you during the dressing room wait. You might be a fighter if you know how crazy it is that many fights are won or lost right there in that waiting room before you are sent on your way.
You know of things that wouldn't make another person even blink, and they could throw your whole program off. Like when you find yourself sharing a dressing room with a couple other fighters and maybe those two want to watch the other fights on the card as they are shown on a monitor set up for you guys in the dressing room.
You don't want to watch the fights, however, and you're not sure exactly why you don't. But, in any event, it gets you uneasy and fidgety, almost angry, like you are claustrophobic as you are forced to sit there and watch and listen to the fate of the other boxers on the show. They have already left this dungeon for the land of the unknown that is the ring down the hall or up the stairs.
Some guy in the dressing room has a boom box playing music that you absolutely hate ,but you don't know the guy and you don't want to ask him to turn it off because you know he is going through the same craziness that you are.
Asking him to shut his choice of music down is just like saying, "Would you like to have a fistfight with me right here and now in this room?"
So you sit there trying to stay focused and tune out the music that bothers you -- even though you feel crazy because it is bothering you way more than it really should. And your trainer is late with wrapping your hands and some guy with a walkie-talkie comes in trying to rush him to finish the job. All that does is make you feel like someone is squeezing your whole body in a vice grip, making you feel heat from an invisible source with pressure gripping you that comes from somewhere also invisible. You want to tell the trainer to hurry up and finish, but you don't want to seem weak or soft to any of the other guys in the room.
You are a fighter that sat in that same room on another night as a "swing bout," and you felt your nerves twist upside down and inside out every time a bout ended and you got yourself all jazzed up and ready to go only to have that feeling of anticipation inside you cut off once again just like that -- severed with a clean slice that came in the form of, "Forget it, sit back down. The schedule is changed, you're not up yet."
You sit in that room and you tell yourself that you will never subject yourself to this type of anxiety ever again.
"After tonight, never again," you say.
But, there is always an "again," and if you are a real fighter then you know exactly why.
You only know that the phrase, "It's like a drug," applies to it even if you don't know -- don't have a clue -- what real drugs taste, feel or smell like. If you are a professional fighter like me, then you know exactly what this "drug" -- our drug -- feels like.
Basically, you might be a fighter if you know that the wait in the dressing room before a fight, the walk to the ring and then the time spent actually fighting another man in that ring is where all your truths and all your lies, whether you are ready for them or not, will come pouring out into the light.